Visiting Ottawa has become fun. When I was a child, visiting Ottawa was so boring because we had to go to museums and galleries and learn about stuff. I lose focus in big museums really easily, so needless to say, I did not have the best impression of Ottawa.
Fast forward about fourteen years, and visiting Ottawa is suddenly amazingly cool (and not just because of friends living there). There’s actually loads of great things to see and do, the city is a very, very attractive piece, and the food has surpassed Beavertails and poutine (although seriously, they still reign supreme).
Last weekend, we made a little road trip out of it, and tried some new ways to experience Ottawa. First, it was my mission to visit Prince Edward County to nom some cheese and wine. I have a crush on Fifth Town’s artisanal cheeses, and have heard nothing but good things about the county’s wines and wineries, so we decided to detour off the 401 just before Belleville and cut down to the island county.
Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. is alllllll the way down at the east end of the county, so we decided to stop at a winery on the way there. Waupoos Estates Winery won by default, and I’m so happy we stopped there. After sipping back a few $1 tasters, buying a bottle of Vidal and Pearl Noir as hostess gifts for our friend in Ottawa, and a meander around the gorgeous lakefront property, we happily jumped back in the car in search of cheese.
Fifth Town, Canada’s only LEED certified dairy, was cheese-lovers heaven. With an enormous variety of samples – cheese cubes, spreads, cream cheeses, everything – I had a hard time keeping my hand away from sampling more. Finally, we had to, and grabbed some hand-rolled goat cheese logs and cream cheese, and headed back to the highway.
We were very behind schedule at this point, but I blame the wine and cheese.
On Saturday, after deciding that we’d seen the Parliament Buildings more than enough times, we headed out of Ottawa and into Quebec, to Gatineau Park (Parc de la Gatineau), about a half hour drive north of Ottawa. We had absolutely perfect hiking weather, and clambered along the Lauriault trail, checking out the views, cursing children (just me), and visiting former Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s old residence.
The trail was gorgeous, and made me wish we had something like this a little closer to Toronto.
After our hike, we felt like we deserved a treat, and promptly devoured homemade ice cream from La Cigale, a cute little place in Chelsea, the town next to Gatineau Park.
I can tell you that eating maple walnut ice cream in a waffle cone in the late summer sun after a hike is one of the best feelings in the world.
By the time dinner rolled around, I evidently felt like I deserved more indulgence (as I’m prone to doing), savouring vodka martinis, ridiculously good kimchee lettuce wraps, and Chilean carmenere at Oz Kafe. There also may have been a shared dessert of grilled peaches in there, but I won’t verify that. After upping and moving down the street, we squeezed our way into the jammed and incredible artisan-style town, and proceeded to devour port and an envious amount of Quebec cheese.
And no, I didn’t share. The Prestige, Ciel de Charlevoix, and Laliberte were all for myself. Oops.
It seems as though Ottawa really is more fun when you’re grown up, and can drive to parks, and drink wine and port (please, not while driving), and dictate where you want to detour to, rather than having no input and being bored to death by the 401. I hope to visit Ottawa again in the winter to check out the cross-country skiing in Gatineau, and definitely take a twirl on the Rideau Canal skating rink.